It’s the home stretch of the football season. Rivalries take center stage....as meaningless games for teams playing out the string linger stage left.
Last Saturday, Rutgers and Indiana were not playing out the string; they each had something to play for. One still does.
And despite the fact that there was something on the line, the Hoosier faithful stayed home in droves. Okay, say those Hoosier fans, it was only Rutgers. But you had something on the line. It was the smallest home crowd for Indiana all season, 35,949 and about 8,000 under their average.
Northwestern plays in Chicagoland. If it’s not snowing there, it’s a nice day. Yet the Cats drew their smallest crowd of the year, an anemic 30,014, and the smallest crowd of any Big Ten home game...all season!
And now the big question for Rutgers and its fans is who shows up on Saturday for the finale against Michigan State? The excuses were already being made a week ago: Thanksgiving holiday, students won’t be there, yada yada yada. To quote Daffy Duck: “Phooey!”
Rutgers athletics was already encouraging students to come back early for the game.
@RutgersU Students: Make plans to get back to town early !! @RFootball hosts Michigan St. at 4 PM next Saturday 11/25. The student claim is now OPEN: https://t.co/MoMVCOCSpC pic.twitter.com/YW8nBwSEyO— Rutgers Athletics (@RUAthletics) November 15, 2017
And, seriously, we’re one of the smallest states. Come to the game and go home again if you want. It’s only an hour and 48 minutes from Montague Twp in the farthest northwest corner of the state to the stadium. It’s two and a half hours from Cape May at the southernmost tip.
It. Isn’t. That. Far. And think about this.....
This is it. The last game in a season that had crazy ups and downs but showed a lot of growth and progress (yes, I’m whining and pleading just a tad).
Sparty is 8-3. A pretty good team. It was spoken of by a lot of people - at one time - as a potential “winnable” game. (Pssst - it still is) Hey, Maryland only lost 17-7 in East Lansing!
The long range forecast has it as a decent enough day....football weather. Weather.com is calling for “Partly cloudy. Slight chance of a rain shower. High around 55F.” That’s a good - no, very good - football day for late November. What’s the chance of breaking 35,000?
It’s Big Ten weather
Northwestern, despite what I wrote earlier, had arguably the nastiest weather on Saturday, and that may have contributed to its small turnout. The rain at Michigan State turned to snow and at one point, the radio announcers for MSU gave a shoutout to the fans “who stayed”. Not sure how bad it got, though they did comment at one point that the snow was coming down “side ways”. And for the season, the conference’s average attendance was the fourth largest; Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and MSU certainly helped that number.